Calling all Foodies, Walnut Creek’s Restaurant Boom!

Good luck reading this blog and not drooling everywhere. In the most recent issue of Walnut Creek Magazine, they laid out a long list of new restaurants coming to town. Here is a quick run down of twelve new places to eat.

Credit: tonygemignani.com
Credit: tonygemignani.com

As part of Walnut Creek’s transition from sleepy suburb to must-see Capitol of the East Bay, the already thriving restaurant scene is getting another injection of new, hip hot spots.

First, let’s talk about pizza. As if we weren’t already spoiled by good pizza joints in Walnut Creek, MOD Pizza is moving into The Orchards, Slice House – from the world-famous Tony’s in San Francisco – will set up shop right below Teleferic and Rooftop, and Pizza My Heart will snag Project Pie’s old space on California.

The artist formerly known as Pyramid is going to be (highly-anticipated BBQ joint) Sauced, McCovey’s is turning into brunch king Momo’s, and the Hubcaps team is transforming their space into Broderick Roadhouse.

Credit: Twitter

Lemonade, a SoCal chain that serves fresh California cuisine, is coming to the old La Boulange space, and the aforementioned Rooftop is already enjoying a swell of crowds every night to dine and drink under the stars.

Looking for comfort food among all the fancy feasting joints? Hops & Scotch on Treat Blvd. will bring a restaurant and bar with mac n’ cheese, chicken strips, fried cheese curds and more.

And just to pile on top of the never-ending sushi craze, Kona Grill will enter at The Agora on Main, and also offer burgers and pasta.

Lastly, look for Limon Rotisserie and Lokanta Mediterranean Grill & Bar on Locust St.

Whew … just in time for summer dining!

 

Celebration of Closing on a Home!!!

One of the greatest joys of my job is presenting my clients with the key to their new home or telling a seller their home is SOLD.  Below are  some pictures of celebrating with my happy clients as they receive those keys, sign their loan documents and enjoy their congratulatory “let’s celebrate” baskets after closing!

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Celebrating Recognition

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2015 was a great year for many reasons. Celebrating with some Better Homes and Gardens colleagues at our awards ceremony – I was Emerald Elite in the company and #3 in our office. From left to right: celebrating with Laura Wucher, Vyana Chain, me, and Rose Brudigan. Cheers! (I love the phone and purse on the table and the wine in Rose’s hand).

Hotel Boom in Walnut Creek?

As prices for housing, hotels and, well, pretty much everything continue to skyrocket in San Francisco, travelers are starting to realize they can stay in the East Bay and BART to and from the city in order to save a lot of money. This will have a direct effect on Walnut Creek, which is right on the BART line and becoming a hotspot anyway.

New hotels are being reviewed for Walnut Creek, including a 160-room business traveler-targeted Marriott Residence Inn near BART (where the Jaguar/Range Rover dealership and Bank of the West are currently situated) that would open this time next year. The city has also reportedly discussed a boutique hotel being built in the downtown corridor.

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On one hand, this means more visitors discovering our beautiful little city and, therefore, more of a boost to the local economy. On the other hand, it means even more crowds and traffic. Higher prices for food, movie tickets and shopping. More loud, rowdy party-goers hopping from Crogan’s to Tiki Tom’s to Stadium Pub. You take the good with the bad.

Either way, if this hotel boom in the East Bay continues, it will accelerate Walnut Creek’s transition from small suburb to a must-visit Bay Area destination. I have already heard a few opinions of how people feel about Walnut Creek’s growth…please share your comments too! It’s always a hot topic.

Top 5 Must-Do’s for First-Time Home Buyers

first time home buyer featuredSo you’ve finally made the big decision. You’re going to buy a house!

You are aware of the long road ahead, but excited to take on the challenge and have a home you can call your own.

It’s a stressful process, however there are a few things you can do to help prepare for your first time through the home-buying process:

Determine your budget.

There are many online calculators available that can help you to get an idea of what your monthly mortgage payments should be, based on how much money you are looking to borrow. Don’t forget to include property taxes, though – estimate 1.25 percent of the purchase price for a yearly property tax estimate. If you are looking at a condo or a townhouse, then you most likely will have to consider a monthly HOA fee. Also, look at what your income, debts and assets are; this is where I strongly recommend you speak with a lender. The good ones break that all out for you and can help you work up a budget.

Examine your credit and credit score.

You want to get yourself in the best position to qualify for the lowest interest rates and best mortgage terms and one way to do that is to beef up your credit score. If your score is less than perfect, look for ways to increase your score. If you have limited credit history, look for ways to build positive credit before you apply for a mortgage loan. This is another area that a good mortgage broker can give some suggestions to improve your credit. No matter what your score is, review your credit report to ensure that there are no errors on your report which ay impact your ability to qualify for the mortgage you want.

Where will your down payment come from? And how much will you need?

Buying a home is a big financial commitment, which can often require a big cash down payment. Where will you be getting your down payment from – savings, a 401(k) or IRA withdrawal? As a gift from family? Although FHA loans are often an attractive option for first-time homebuyers because they only require you put 3.5 percent down, you’ll still need to roughly determine how much 3.5 percent will be and where you’ll be getting those funds from, while still saving enough for closing costs. All the while, you must keep your debt-to-income ratios in line with guidelines.

Begin to gather up all the documents you’ll need to qualify for a mortgage.

When you apply for a mortgage you’re likely going to need to show your lender proof of your identity (passport, driver’s license or similar) as well as recent pay stubs from your employer and copies of your past year (or two years) of tax returns. Each lender will have their own requirements, but gathering together these basic pieces of information can help make the mortgage application process go smoothly. Again, a good lender will send out an introduction email with a list of the things that are required.

Get preapproved for a mortgage before you begin house hunting! 

This is a MUST! Home sellers want to know that you’re serious about buying, and one of the best ways to show them that is by submitting an offer that comes with mortgage pre-qualification. In some hot housing markets, sellers won’t even accept offers without a pre-qualification or DU Approval. A good real estate agent will also help guide you through this process, which can include an informative face-to-face about the whole process or a good lender recommendation.

Excerpts of this blog generously borrowed from The Orland Group Realtor Coaching.

Tips Before You List – Economical, DIY Home Improvements

remodelWhen preparing your home for sale, statistics show staged homes sell faster and for more money than non-staged homes.

However, if your house is already a picture from Architectural Digest or your budget is limited, I am sharing a few tips from BuzzFeed about how you can make a few inexpensive, DIY upgrades to your house to increase the value and improve its aesthetics before listing.

Adding paint in certain parts of the house, evaluating house plants, replacing light bulbs, landscaping and giving your home a good, deep clean are examples of a few things you can do to improve the look of your home before listing.  You, the homeowner, can do quite a bit to significantly raise the value of your home and increase interest among prospective buyers.gardening

For the most part, these projects can be easily completed by you or a handyman and the materials are relatively inexpensive. If you’re willing to put in the time and effort, it may pay big dividends in the end.

Selling your home is an investment in your financial future, and the more TLC you put into it, the more you’ll get out of it. Should you need some recommendations for a handyman, gardener or painter, give me a call. I also provide a free consultation on things you can do to help spruce up the home and get it market-ready.

Check out BuzzFeed’s list for some ideas here.

A Taste of Spain in Walnut Creek

IMG_8455The downtown Walnut Creek landscape is ever-changing. If you’ve strolled through the construction zones of Broadway Plaza lately, you’re well aware. What was once a beautiful, high-end shopping center is now an even more beautiful, more high-end shopping center.

While many of the Walnut Creek favorites have survived the remodeling boom, there is also an exciting array of new restaurants being squeezed into every available lot in town. Sunol Ridge and the Library on Main are just a few new options popping up downtown.

One of the new restaurants is also the most recognizable: Teleferic, taking over what used to be a drab parking lot kitty corner from Neiman Marcus, is a very cool, unique building. It dominates the skyline at the North Main/Mt. Diablo light, where a rebirth of the Four Corners is taking place in downtown Walnut Creek.

IMG_8456The Barcelona and Basque-inspired tapas and wine bar has a beautiful outdoor terrace that looks West at the setting sun over the hills.

It hovers over Vineyard Vines, a new clothing store that rules the ground floor. And despite being situated in the middle of a busy downtown, in a California suburb, you still get that old world charm when you enter.

Speaking of the Basque country, that is what influenced the owners of Teleferic to create a restaurant in Barcelona. They grew from their humble beginnings in Sant Cugat in the early 90’s into a dual-location behemoth that spans two countries.

For anyone who loves good tapas, this is the place to be. Named after the word “cable car” in Catalan, Teleferic will also sit below a new Asian fusion restaurant called Rooftop, run by Iron Chef alum and former Chef de Cuisine at Slanted Door, Justine Kelly, which will add an extra level of spice to this awesome new downtown IMG_8457spot.

Give them a try and let us know what you think while you enjoy the great dishes they serve tapas style, in addition to their paella and sangria.

Though more pricey than your standard tapas in Spain, and slightly different than the homemade bar tapas you’ll find abroad, the food at Teleferic and the atmosphere of the location is one of the most interesting combinations in Walnut Creek.

We’d expect nothing less with Spaniards at the helm! Speaking as a Basque descendant from Reno!

Check out Teleferic when you get a chance – it’s food and charm is well worth it.

Best of Walnut Creek: Coffeeshops

Image: http://va388.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/Pacific-Bay-Coffee-outside-710x363.jpgLike most things in town, there is no shortage of coffee to drink in Walnut Creek. There’s Starbucks for the on-the-go coffee drinker. Peet’s Coffee has been opening its doors to loyal customers for decades. The Coffee Shop is new and attracting a young, hip crowd. And La Scala has a European feel, but is also popular as a corner spot perfect for a laptop and latte.

Then, there’s a local favorite right across from Kaiser: Pacific Bay Coffee Co. They opened up around the corner from Las Lomas and across the street from the hospital in 2004. It was founded as an independent coffee shop, offering on-site roasting. In 2010, they upgraded their brewing methods to siphon coffee, 24-hour cold-brew, aeropress and Japanese drip style pour-over. Additionally, they’ve expanded into loose-leaf tea from all over the world.

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In January, when we saw the windows papered and the shop closed, many assumed the worst. Via NextDoor.com comment boards, the potential closure led to concerns about, and a spirited discussion of, the support of small businesses in Walnut Creek. Since I live only three blocks away and needed some tea, this prompted me to stop by and ask a few questions.

I spoke with the owner Richard Fong, checked out the remodel (it feels brighter, more upbeat, and has more seating) and asked about the reason for the remodel. He told me that it was time for an update. Originally, the remodel was set to start in March, but the contractor was available in January and moved it up. As a side note, competition is moving closer with Starbucks opening below the not yet completed Agora Apartments just across the way.

IMG_4225What sets Pacific Bay apart is the on-site roasting of beans. They have perfected the medium-to-light roasting technique of single-origin beans. They work in small batches, in order to maintain the highest quality and freshness. Pac Bay recently won a Bronze Medal at the Roasting Awards in Oregon, and have purchased the Victoria Arduino Black Eagle espresso machine – one of only two of its kind in the area (the other is at Sextant Coffee in San Francisco). IMG_4220

They also have a new slow bar, which takes anywhere from two to seven minutes to fill, and is a process deemed “the third wave of coffee.” Lastly, they added custom drip teapots to strengthen their already delicious tea selection! If you want fresh coffee, this is the place to go, as they roast a couple times a week. You can find them up at 4 in the morning on Saturday’s brewing and roasting fresh batches.

Pacific Bay is keeping up with the trends and continues to set the standard for coffee and tea in Walnut Creek. The freshness and quality of their drinks, on top of a great location and updated decor, makes it well worth a visit, along with supporting a local small business that helps keep Walnut Creek unique.

We would love to hear your favorite coffee place along with any comments you would like to share!